Meet philanthropic investor Sarah Kunst, who made history with $3.5M fund

Abu Mubarik November 27, 2023
Sarah Kunst. Photo: LinkedIn/Sarah Kunst

Sarah Kunst is an entrepreneur and an angel investor who currently serves as the managing director of Cleo Capital. Prior to her current position, she worked at Apple, Red Bull, Chanel, and Mohr Davidow Ventures.

Also, she served as senior advisor at Bumble where she focused on their corporate VC arm Bumble Fund, and served on the Board of Venture for America and on the board of the Michigan State University Foundation endowment. 

As an entrepreneur, she founded LA Dodgers-backed Proday and has since backed a wide range of startups including Ellevest, Hill House Home, Falconx, Planet Forward, and Kobold Metals, according to her company’s website.

The company primarily invests in Delaware C corps building software companies with the potential to become multi-billion dollar companies. The firm loves backing founders at the earliest stages with a check size that usually ranges between $100K-1M. 

After graduating from Michigan State University and starting her career in advertising, Kunst joined Sequoia Capital as a scout. After observing that women were woefully underrepresented in the scouting program, she knew that there was an opportunity to empower female founders, according to Medium.

This led her to start Cleo Capital in 2018 with the mission to fund pre-seed businesses. Since then, she has been an advocate for diverse founders, investors, and operators. 

“The way to find, hire and fund black people in the tech world is the same as finding, hiring and funding any other group,” she told TechCrunch in an interview in 2020. “You build relationships with people in that group, you seek out thought leaders from the community and learn from them […] It’s not about tokenizing one person or donating to a one time effort or writing it off as a pipeline problem.”

Amid Covid-19 that year, she started the Chrysalis fellowship program. “In March 2020, as Covid was shutting down the economy and startups started laying people off, I decided that simply saying downturns are a great time to build a company wasn’t enough and that Cleo needed to roll up our sleeves and help make those new companies happen. Chrysalis was the result,” she told Medium.

Kunst, who said her $3.5M fund was the second largest first-time fund by a Black woman VC in America ever, started Chrysalis basically for laid-off workers. “…We had hundreds of applications, over 100 people join the fellowship, and in 6 weeks, they came together to meet each other, share ideas and collectively started working on over 20 ideas.”

Kunst’s venture has earned recognition worldwide. She was named a Future Innovator by Vanity Fair, Forbes 30 Under 30, and a Top 25 Innovator in tech by Cool Hunting. What is more, the Business Insider also featured her as a 30 under 30 Women in Tech and Top African-American in Tech & Pitchbook Top Black VC To Watch. The Wall St. Journal honored her as a top woman VC and she was named a top DealmakeHer by the National Retail Federation. 

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: November 27, 2023

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